Richland High School assistant football coach Mike Sabol admitted that not so long ago, his two sons’ sibling rivalry occasionally took a feisty tone in the family home.
“It’s a constant competition,” said Mike Sabol of his sons, Lucas and Jacob, Richland’s starting inside linebackers. “We don’t have the fights at home so much anymore where they’re fighting each other with punches being thrown. Now, it’s a weekly thing that they’re looking to see who has so many tackles this week or that week.”
There’s plenty of brotherly love to go around in the Sabol house as well as on the turf at Herlinger Field.
A lot of tackles, too.
“I’ve noticed during the games when one of them makes a big play, the other one is right there patting them on the back, high-fiving them,” Mike Sabol said. “It just makes me happy that they have that kind of relationship that they’re able to support each other.”
The Sabols are two key cogs in a stifling Richland defense that helped the Rams successfully defend their District 6 Class AA title last week against an undefeated Ligonier Valley team.
The 12-0 Rams will play District 12 champion Bishop McDevitt, which carries a deceiving 7-6 record into the PIAA Class AA quarterfinal round at 7 p.m. on Friday at Chambersburg High School.
“Our defense has played great all year and our two inside linebackers have played outstanding,” said Richland coach Brandon Bailey, whose team limited the potent Ligonier Valley offense to just six points last week and has held eight opponents to single-digit scoring, including two shutouts. “They’ve played every snap.
“They make sure everyone is lined up and they get to the ball. They’re just relentless pursuit to the football on every play.”
Jacob Sabol leads the Rams with 104 tackles, including 59 solo stops. He has two sacks and an interception.
“We go off with each other a lot. We always help each other out with the play calls,” Jacob Sabol said of his brother. “If we don’t know what we’re doing, we’ll just ask each other and we’ll get it figured out before the play. We just work off of each other the whole time.”
Lucas Sabol has 98 tackles, with 63 solos and four sacks.
“Coach Bailey says it all the time that we have some sort of special connection,” Lucas Sabol said. “When my guy needs picked up by him, he’ll pick him up. His guy needs picked up, I’ll pick him up.
“Normally, if there are missed assignments, it gets a little heated between me and him,” Lucas Sabol added. “At the end, we hug it out. It’s all love.”
Bailey said the bond extends to the Rams family on both sides of the ball. The 18th-year Richland coach appreciates the edge the brothers bring to the field.
“They love each other but neither one of them wants the other to have more tackles than they do,” Bailey said. “There certainly is a sibling rivalry in that regard, but at the same time, both of them are here to win.”
Lucas led the Rams with 118 tackles a year ago, which was 12 more stops than his brother produced on a 13-1 district championship team.
Beyond the numbers, there also is admiration and respect among the brothers.
“Whenever I was younger I would watch him play. He would come to my games. We would just watch each other,” Jacob Sabol said. “It’s always cool having a brother to watch and eventually play with.”
Mike Sabol played on the Richland team that went 7-4 in 1986. Those Rams finished as District 6-AA runner-up to a powerhouse United team that allowed only 57 points that season.
He was head coach of the Rams from 1993 to 1997, spent four seasons as an assistant to Frank Krevetski at Somerset, and returned home when Bailey took over the Richland program in 2002.
“Since a young age our dad has always been there encouraging us in football, helping us out,” Jacob Sabol said. “We always knew he played. We wanted to keep playing too. It motivated us.”
As both a coach and a father, Mike Sabol savors each week during this memorable season.
“I’m just so incredibly proud of everything they’ve been able to do,” Mike Sabol said. “They have definitely worked hard and deserve everything that they have achieved because of the endless hours in the weight room and the multiple sports that they play. They put the time in and now it’s paying off.”